Thursday, January 29, 2009

Philip K. Howard, author of Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law, says Americans are being hamstrung by too many legal restrictions.


Philip K. Howard

Comments [24]

Karen from Manhattan

While I missed the show this morning, I'm a attorney whose represents, inter alia, mass tort claimants in large bankruptcy matters. We do the deals, not the liability claims, but my view is that, were it not for laws and law suits, corporate American and the big insurers would take no responsibliity for their products (asbestos, or toxic waste for example) and the damage that such products cause. I agree that there are abuses -- there's always someone trying to game any system -- but without malpractice and product liability law suits, regulation and oversight of the corporate community would be left to the states and the federal government. We, the public, may pay part of the price for such laws in higher fees, et al., but the cost to the public, in both dollars and quality of life, would be much higher were it not for trial lawyers.

Jan. 29 2009 01:12 PM
hjs from 11211

maybe the 'loser' should pay all court costs and lawyers fees

Jan. 29 2009 12:06 PM
Richard Walker from San Francisco, CA

Mr. Howard makes a good deal of sense. In my opinion, this is quite different from your standard libertarian line or reform campaign with hidden corporate agendas (limits on damages)

I've been informed by bullhorn that I was breaking the law - I was skating home from work one day in Marin, back across the Golden Gate Bridge with the cyclists. I asked him whether I could protest this, as I was skating home. He gassed away, I kept skating and he intercepted me in the parking lot, and obviously did not want me to pursue this... He claimed that it was illegal "because something might happen and someone might sue." I was willing to attend safety training or get any special license I needed.

However, that isn't good enough. Skaters don't carry accident insurance, but nor do Bicyclists. I did not sue, but it may have been the best way to redress this sort of bureaucratic nonsense. They remember the sting of the damage award and negative press.

But, I don't want to live in that world, nor this. Where car insurance and lawyers trump little ole me on skates.

Jan. 29 2009 12:00 PM
Rich from Staten Island

There is a Physician Discipline section in the New York State Department of Health site. Might be difficult to analyze if there are more physicians disciplined compared to previous years or the number and/or validity of the complaints

Jan. 29 2009 11:56 AM
MichaelB from UWS Manhattan

Howard is NOT saying there shouldn't be lawsuits.

What he IS saying is that there are costs to society associated with lawsuits -- costs that are not nearly as obvious as the original "injury."

And we all pay for this one way or another. This is true even for non-frivolus suits.

Jan. 29 2009 11:52 AM
Edward from NJ

The original Ledbetter case was an EEOC lawsuit. It was brought by the Federal government. It was not brought by a lawyer looking to cash in. The only lawyers who got rich from that case worked for Goodyear.

Jan. 29 2009 11:51 AM

Robert Hendrix, what do you say to people who can't afford to serve on juries? Even if your not a freelancer, many jobs don't pay for days missed due to jury duty. Are you implying that we should risk not making rent to fulfill our "duty?"

If the jury system paid at least enough per week to equal the maximum unemployment check, I think people would be a little more enthusiastic about serving.

Also, I wouldn't want my case decided by a bunch of poor, grumpy jurors just trying to quickly make a decision so they can get back to earning a living!

Jan. 29 2009 11:51 AM
hjs from 11211

is it true bad doctors are rarely forced to stop practicing.

Jan. 29 2009 11:44 AM
Edward from NJ

Howard's response to the Ledbetter law shows EXACTLY where he's coming from. The law changes when the clock starts ticking, but it still limits the period that retroactive damages can be paid. Howard knows this but raises the straw dog of "15 years of damages". Does his book address the corporate lawyers who appeal and appeal lawsuits with no eye to fairness?

Jan. 29 2009 11:44 AM
Rich from Staten Island

Hospitals won't even communicate to families when something goes wrong. I believe these institutions are hiding many mistakes

Jan. 29 2009 11:42 AM

doctors pay high insurance premiums because insurance companies take advantage of the perception of frivolous lawsuits.

thousands of people die each year because of medical malpractice and I am glad that one has the opportunity in those cases.

every person listening to this show would sue if a loved one died because of hospital and doctor incompetence.

Jan. 29 2009 11:42 AM

how would mr howard feel about a formal system for rectifying correctable medical errors short of malpractice?

Jan. 29 2009 11:42 AM
KC from Brooklyn

There are plenty of reasons why the US is so much more litigious than the rest of the world, but doesn't our lack of a national healthcare plan contribute to this? If an injury is going to automatically bankrupt someone, a lawsuit might be the only way he/she can pay.

Jan. 29 2009 11:42 AM
Jesse from New York

What Howard is suggesting is having our courts issue advisory opinions. That would not free us from law suits- it would add more. We have an imperfect system that works- people make their own determination about reasonableness and where there is a disagreement, the jury decides. Remember, the jury is one of the few institutions where people have a say. Howard wants to take that away.

Jan. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Hans from Brooklyn

What kinds does Mr. Howard recommend as an alternative here?

Jan. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Eric from B'klyn

And what about corporate abuse? What compels the corporation to conform to the law, fear of ligation is one. Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, the list is endless. should be a two way street.

Jan. 29 2009 11:39 AM
Pati from Staten Island New York

An object from my childhood that has disappeared from view: How sad it has been to visit public and private swimming pools and see that all the diving boards have been removed for fear of lawsuits.

Jan. 29 2009 11:39 AM
Chris from New York

It doesn't sound like the author is describing too much law. Rather, it sounds like people are flocking to the law because of a lack of other recourses. The US lacks a social safety net. People without health care don't have other options; costs have to be recovered somewhere. This sounds like a bigger societal issue than just blaming the law. Perhaps the US should adopt something along the lines of the New Zealand tort system, which allows people to recover for harm administratively, rather than clogging courts.

Jan. 29 2009 11:39 AM
Angela from Manhattan

What about medical malpractice cases? Unfortunately, it seems possible to find an "expert" who will testify to almost anything a plaintiff and lawyer want. Juries are expected to make a choice between dueling experts and are not equipped to weigh the medical issues. What is the chance of changing the system to one that is decided by a board of experts (that should include doctors, lawyers, and the public) which can hopefully avoid large sympathy judgements?

Jan. 29 2009 11:38 AM

The Ledbetter bill _is_ as "reasonable" as Howard would want, limiting damages to $300G and limiting applicable time passed, etc.

Doesn't he know these things??

I do agree with the idea that courts should (and often do) draw the lines of reasonable risks.

But all this renders Howard somewhat redundant and frankly out of it.

Jan. 29 2009 11:38 AM
Robert Hendrix from Union Square

One of the main failings of our legal system is the failure of citizens to participate by sitting on juries. People fought for centuries for the right to participate in the legal system by sitting on juries. Now the same people who complain about ludicrous damages awards chuckle smugly about ducking jury duty. It's called "duty" for a reason. Whatever happened to the concept of civic duty?

Jan. 29 2009 11:36 AM
robert from park slope

Re the story of the cheerleader suing her school after an injury, health insurance companies will sometimes encourage this to reduce their own liability.

Jan. 29 2009 11:35 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

I'll bet Mr. Howard would sue if someone hurt him. Remember Robert Bork suing Yale for a million bucks when he fell? From ACS blog:

Judge Bork has been a leading advocate of restricting plaintiffs' ability to recover through tort law. In a 2002 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy--the official journal of the Federalist Society--Bork argued that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have caused the Constitution to evolve into a document which would allow Congress to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing.

Jan. 29 2009 11:34 AM

He lost me on his playgrounds comment. It sure doesn't apply to those in NY or CT.

Jan. 29 2009 11:32 AM

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